The Detroit Tigers are pretty much out of reach for the Cleveland Indians and the Kansas City Royals, but the wild card is still in play for both teams. A recent 4-game swoon by the Tampa Bay Rays has opened the door for some teams to dream just a little once again.
The Tigers, with the best pitcher in the American League this season, Max Scherzer, and the best hitter in baseball, Miguel Cabrera, will have to have something go terribly wrong not to win this division. The expanded playoff format is accomplishing what was intended – it is keeping teams’ post season hopes a live a bit longer and creating excitement in more cities.
1) Detroit Tigers (80-57, 0 GB): Last week – 3-4. Summary: The Tigers really laid an egg last week, getting swept by the Oakland A’s. That series, coupled with Tampa’s poor play over the weekend, moved Oakland into that 1st spot in the wild race. Detroit bounced back and put a whipping on the Cleveland Indians for two games before the Tribe salvaged the last game of the season. The Tigers know they are in control with 25 games to go. If the Tigers go just 13-12, Cleveland would have to go 17-9 to catch them and Kansas City would have to go 19-7. The Tigers can really rest Miguel Cabrera to get him healthy for the post season.
AL Team Rankings – Hitting: Extra base Hits – 425 (3rd), Stolen Bases – 31 (15th), Triples – 17 (9th). Pitching: Stolen Bases Allowed – 109 (2nd most), Shutouts – 9 (7th), Saves – 31 (12th).
2) Cleveland Indians (72-64, 7.5 GB, 3.5 GB – WC): Last week – 1-5. Summary: The Indians pretty much played themselves right out of the opportunity to challenge the Tigers for the division. Losing three in a row to the Braves, and dropping the first two games in the series with Detroit, all but buried Cleveland as far as the AL Central is concerned. Hope is not lost for the Tribe though. The Indians sit just 3.5 out in the wild card race with six of their next nine match-ups against other wild card hopefuls – Baltimore and Kansas City, with a weekend series with the Mets thrown in bewteen, just to serve as an irritant to everyone. If the Indians can turn things around and have a strong 9 games, they will have a legitimate shot at the second playoff slot.
AL Team Rankings – Hitting: Extra Base Hits – 403 (5th), Stolen Bases – 99 (5th), Triples – 17 (9th). Pitching: Stolen Bases Allowed – 66 (10th most), Shutouts – 16 (1st), Saves – 32 (11th).
3) Kansas City Royals (70-66, 9.5 GB, 5.5 GB – WC): Last week – 5-2. Summary: In a stretch where Kansas City played 16 of their 17 games against sub .500 opponents, the Royals have struggled thus far. They have just gone 6-7, with 4 games left against the Seattle Mariners. The Royals needed to win 13 or 14 of those games and will be lucky to win 9 of them. That they even have a remote chance to still be in the race at all is unbelievable. If the Royals are ever going to buckle down and play superior ball, now is the time. After the Mariners series, Kansas City will play its next 12 games against the Tigers and the Indians, then 3 with Texas. The Royals have to get hot and stay hot against some of the best teams in the league. Since they faltered against the weak sisters, it doesn’t seem promising.
AL Team Rankings – Hitting: Extra Base Hits – 335 (15th), Stolen Bases – 126 (1st), Triples – 27 (2nd). Pitching: Stolen Bases Allowed – 70 (9th most), Shutouts – 10 (5th), Saves – 41 (3rd).
4) Minnesota Twins (59-76, 20 GB): Last week – 2-4. Summary: The Twins just continue to scuffle along, playing out the season. Look for more and more young guys to get a chance to make an impression as Minnesota goes through September. The Twins have to be pleased with the progress made over the season with players like Brian Dozier, Pedro Florimon, and Oswaldo Arcia, but they still have plenty of guys looking for a chance to play in 2014. The next 7 games are against sub .500 teams, but all of their games after that, to the end of the season, are played against teams battling for the playoffs. It could be along September for the Twins.
AL Team Rankings – Hitting: Extra Base Hits – 391 (8th), Stolen Bases – 44 (13th), Triples – 14 (13th). Pitching: Stolen Bases Allowed – 60 (13th most), Shutouts – 7 (11th), Saves – 35 (8th).
5) Chicago White Sox (56-79, 23 GB): Last week – 2-4. Summary: Like the Twins, the White Sox are going to be holding some auditions for 2014. They are going to be gaining experience for their young pitching staff and getting at bats for some new hitters. Their schedule for the month of September is even more harsh than that of the Twins. Every game but 3 are against teams that, as of right now, are battling for playoff berths. This week, it is seven contests on the road against the Yankees and the Orioles. They could play spoilers in a big way, and help out their AL Central rivals, by winning both series. Like the Twins, it may be a very long last month of the season in the Windy City.
AL Team Rankings – Hitting: Extra Base Hits – 340 (13th), Stolen Bases – 92 (8th), Triples – 14 (13th). Pitching: Stolen Bases Allowed – 84 (5th most), Shutouts – 5 (13th), Saves – 36 (7th).
Most of the excitement for the AL Central will be generated by the Indians and the Royals as each team try to claw their way closer to a wild card spot over the next week. It will be tough outplaying the Athletics, Rays, Orioles, Yankees, and for the Royals, the Indians as well, over the next month. Too many things have to go just right for either team to stay in the race much longer. We shall see if anything has shaken itself out by this time next week.